How to Support Your Small Business Clients’ Success with Local SEO
Having worked in marketing for some time now, I’ve become quite familiar with the small business owner mindset: “I want the perfect website. For cheap. And to generate at least 100 leads for my business starting. Right. Now.” That’s a really tall—and, quite frankly, unfair—order to fill. You’re a developer, not a miracle worker.
I think the problem here stems from the fact that many small business owners feel a lot of pressure to be successful with as little effort and money spent as possible. When it comes to lead generation and SEO (the real key to it all), that’s not a realistic expectation.
In all honesty, organic search is not a game that your small business clients are going to be in a position to win easily or quickly. It will take time, money, and effort—on their part—to make a dent in search rankings and to be in a position where they can actually rival space-hogging paid search ad placements. As the person responsible for building the fully-loaded site that will show up in those search results for them, however, they’re going to expect you to play a part in this.
So, what do you do?
For starters, set their expectations accordingly and make it clear that you’re not an SEO expert. That said, you do understand the rules of SEO as it relates to web design. And since many small businesses rely on local foot or web traffic to power their business, you know just the right tips, tricks, and tools to help optimize their WordPress website for local search.
Local SEO vs. Generic SEO: Understanding the Difference
Local SEO and generic SEO are similar in that the underlying strategy is the same:
- Follow Google’s rules.
- Do everything in your power to appease your visitors.
Obviously, there’s a lot more to SEO success than this boiled-down summary, but it’s not totally inaccurate either. So long as you know what Google’s high-ranking factors are and you understand how to create a positive on-site experience for your audience, you’ll be golden.
Moz reports that there are more than 7 billion local search queries conducted every month in the U.S. Now, the main thing to remember with these local searches is that the target audience comes with a totally different intent than they would, say, if they searched for a company like Amazon or Zappos. If someone were to look for Zappos, their concern isn’t with hours of operation, in-store pickup, or any other local-specific information. For your site, however, it is.
My suggestion to any developer working on a small business website is this: know your audience, figure out what they need from your website, and use that to shape your local SEO strategy. For more tips, check out 11 Tips and Tools You Need to Set Up Your WordPress Site for Local SEO Success
We recently broke down the 20 SEO steps you need to take before launching a site. I think that’s a good place to start before drilling down into the local aspects of SEO.
Once you’ve got a solid SEO strategy in place, you can then weave in the following local SEO tips to give your small business website the geo-specific spin it needs for improved organic search results. Again, it won’t make your site an overnight success, but it’ll give your clients the leverage they need to build clout with their audience as well as the search engines.
1. Check Your Web Hosting
The first thing to think about is your site’s performance with respect to the local audience. If your web hosting provider doesn’t have locally based servers and you anticipate issues with slower loading web pages, you may want to ditch your host in favor of someone who can handle heavy volumes of local traffic. This is especially important if local searches are conducted while people are on the go and expect faster results than usual.
2. Add a Google Map
Every business that has a local presence should include a Google map on their website. Not only that, but the map should be tied to the Google My Business page. Makes sense, right?
Let’s say you want your site to be found when someone searches for a shoe store in Boulder. Wouldn’t it be even better if all they had to type was “shoe store near me” and search results pointed them directly to your physical address—as well as a link to your site—on a Google Map? This is an absolute must for local SEO, so make sure you’re using a reliable maps plugin for your WordPress site.
If you need a WordPress plugin to help you out on this one, check out Beehive.
3. Include All Contact Information
We’re no longer living in a time where people have to resort to phone books to find a local business’s contact information. This is why the web is such a wonderful place—and why you need to take advantage of it with your website. I’d suggest that you include as many contact points as your business has, including the physical address, phone number (preferably with a local extension), email address, and social media links.
In addition to including your contact information, take it one step further and add that information to the schema markup for your site. Daniel Lee did a great write-up on this recently, so be sure to check out his tips under “Implementing Microdata Schema” for local businesses.
4. Provide Multi-Channel Customer Service
While I don’t think this tip will directly influence local search results, I do believe that providing a stringent customer service offering on-site is helpful in indirectly influencing search results. Here’s why: the more capable your site is to answer customer questions and keep them reading your content, looking at your products, and so on, the longer they’ll stay on site and the greater chances you’ll have to increase conversions. Google loves that.
The various methods by which you offer customer service will depend on your business model. However, I think that every small business site should offer up as many contact points as possible. This includes publishing your contact information (see #3 above), including contact forms where appropriate, and maybe even offering live chat (if you have someone to man it). Check out our Chat plugin if you’re interested in exploring the benefits of chat further.
5. Optimize Keywords
At this point, you already understand the important role keywords play in the SEO game. When it comes to optimizing keywords for local search, however, it’s not as simple as throwing the name of your state, region, or city in there. You’ll want to shape each page’s metadata around a key phrase optimized for that specific geographic region, which might not even mean you need to use the city name.
Use a tool like KW Finder to find locally relevant long-tail phrases that will work well with your audience. Then make sure you have a WordPress SEO plugin like SmartCrawl to confirm that your keywording was used effectively on each page.
6. Integrate Customer Reviews
According to information gathered by Bright Local, 74% of consumers are more likely to trust a local company if they find positive online reviews of it from other consumers. Trust and loyalty are incredibly important for a local business’s long-term success, so this is something you should definitely include on your site.
If you already have a presence on review sites like Yelp, FourSquare, Yellow Pages, or Google My Business, include those glowing reviews within your site and link to them. Links to reliable and high-traffic websites can do wonders for SEO. If you don’t currently have reviews, but you can get ahold of customer testimonials, use those until you have publicly published quotes and ratings to share.
7. Create Local-Specific Content
While you’re most likely not responsible for writing blog content or even responsible for dictating which pages a client should include on their site, you can at least provide tools that will help them share content custom-made for local visitors. One of the best ways to do that is through targeted popups that deliver region-specific content, deals, or invitations.
Hustle Pro is our pick of opt-in / pop-up plugins to help you turn your visitors into loyal subscribers, leads and customers.
8. Promote Local Partnerships
This is another one of those ways where you can use content on your site to keep visitors engaged and impressed so that they stick around longer. If you do have local partnerships that you can tout on your site, it would be great to include their recognizable logo and link as well. That way, you can benefit from the linking opportunity this presents while leveraging their well-known name in the community.
9. Start Geotargeting
I wish geotargeting got more fanfare than it currently does since I think this is a pretty powerful tool, especially for the small business wanting to improve their local search ranking. With a geotargeting plugin, you can choose to target and block different geographic regions. This is good for SEO for a number of reasons:
- By blocking traffic from regions you don’t have a business presence in, you can lighten the unnecessary pressure on your servers; consequently, improving site speed and the visitors’ experience.By targeting traffic from specific regions, you can ensure that the right audience finds you. And, if you create content made just for them (see #7 above), you can boost SEO by increasing time on page and decreasing bounce rate.
- By targeting traffic from specific regions, you can ensure that the right audience finds you. And, if you create content made just for them (see #7 above), you can boost SEO by increasing time on page and decreasing bounce rate.
If you’re focused on getting local traffic, I don’t think you can go wrong with geotargeting.
10. Optimize for Mobile
Did you know 47% of consumers use their phones to conduct local searches, 46% use their phones to look up pricing, and 42% use them to check on product availability? I think it’s safe to say then that the mobile user experience plays an important role in local SEO. Rather than assume that a responsive WordPress theme is all you need (though it is a good place to start), I’d urge you to consider a mobile-first approach in design as well.
11. Check the Analytics
As you know, it’s never a good idea to set a website in motion and then leave it be. Web design trends change, search algorithms get thrown out of whack, content needs updating, and sometimes the changes you’ve made just don’t jive with your audience. And that’s okay. You just need to be aware of when these types of things affect your WordPress site’s performance.
Google Analytics is one of those tools that it’s hard to imagine life without. In terms of local SEO, it’s especially helpful as it tells us if all the work we’ve invested in local optimization is working. If you should find that geographically-speaking, visitors aren’t coming from your target local area, or if your geo-specific page content isn’t engaging and converting visitors, Google Analytics will let you know.
If you don’t already have a way to easily pull those insights into your WordPress dashboard, get yourself Beehive.
Being a small, locally-owned business is not easy. While it would be great if we could rely on word-of-mouth and heavy foot traffic to drive business to the places it belongs, that’s not always the case. If you want to increase your clients’ chances of being found by a local audience online, you have to optimize their website for local search.
Are there any other web design or development tactics you have to approach differently for the small local business as opposed to one that’s purely online?